Alice A. Hershey, a former staff member in the Residential Life office, died on July 28, 2016, in Bloomington, Indiana.
(The following was published in The Herald Times, August 7, 2016 🙂
BLOOMINGTON — Alice Austra Hershey, 36, of Bloomington, died in Bloomington Hospital, surrounded by her family. She is survived by her parents, Joan and R. Gordon Hershey, and her sister, M. Elizabeth Hershey.
Alice was born April 5, 1980, in Bloomington Hospital. She was a large baby (10 lbs 2oz.), but she grew up to be a 5-foot, 4-inch adult. For such a short stature, she had a big impact on those who knew her. She was an excellent student, one of the valedictorians of Bloomington High School South (1998). After graduating from Swarthmore College near Philadelphia in 2002, she worked in the residential-life program at Bowdoin College in Maine. She returned to Philadelphia and did quantitative analysis for one firm, a job that she quit in order to begin doing community outreach for the Philadelphia FringeArts festival (for half the pay).
A highlight of her youth was when she was selected to go to Girls’ Nation. The agenda for the event indicated that each girl would get to shake Bill Clinton’s hand and say something to the president. She wanted to say something that would lengthen the conversation with Clinton. Her father suggested appealing to his wonky side and told her to tell him that her dad worked in a Trio Program and thought they needed more funding. The conversation that ensued required the urging of an aide to get the president to see the next girl.
Alice learned in her youth that every person is worthy of respect and even love. She incorporated that lesson deeply. She learned from her mother how to do so with grace and patience. She learned how to cook from her father. She loved organizing gatherings and connecting her friends with each other.
Alice died twice in her life. The first time was the more severe of the two. On August 13, 2009, she was bicycling home to meet a friend and encountered an SUV in an intersection. The driver called for an ambulance. Alice sustained a severe traumatic brain injury as a result of that accident, and she remained in a persistent non-communicative state for the remainder of her life. After five weeks in the hospital, she was moved to the Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, which did intensive therapy with Alice. She regained a surprising amount of flexibility and even strength. She even gave signs of consciousness, but she never regained genuine communication. As she moved to nursing homes that could not offer the same level of therapy, she lost much of the evidence of consciousness that had first encouraged the hopes of her family and many friends.